It has been a *very* busy Summer around the old Pondee, and am ashamed to admit how much I have taken advantage of Jeff’s, (our son-in-law), willingness to help with all of our “projects”. From getting our old 30′ 5th Wheel Trailer both weather and road-worthy again, erecting a new steel out-building for my future shed/shack/shop, to taking on a plumbing problem that led to a mini-remodel of our half-bathroom, and many, many more in between. THANK YOU Son, until you are better paid!
Back on topic, my passion for cooking outdoors is still there – and it is one which Jeff shares completely, but every now and then you hit on something worth sharing that is done indoors too. I think all of us have gone the more traditional routes of thin-slicing and marinating beef or venison – then using the oven, grill, smoker, solar or electric dehydrator, to make jerky. (I confess I’ve never tried the Native American means, but have been tempted). Until purchasing an upgrade to our old, round, dehydrator a few years ago, I had never thought of using lean ground beef – then I hit on a kind of Nesco “kit” and the grand-kids almost did back-flips over the result, (so did Jeff. )… I think the best thing about doing it the “Lazy Man’s” way, is that the great results are repeatable, time after time. Here is what Heidi and I use today to get those huge smiling faces:
Nesco BJX-8 Jumbo Jerky Works Kit
(Primarily for the Jerky gun)
We have been using the leanest we could find in our local markets. At present, our local Albertsons has a 96.4% lean product sold by the pound under “Ground Sirloin”. We use 3 lbs per batch, which makes almost 4 trays.
We like to use a 2:1 ratio – two packets of “Original” to one packet of “Hot-N-Spicy”, along with 3 packets of the “cure” that comes with each. I pre-mix them with a fork in a measuring cup, adding some garlic powder, chili powder, cumin and cayenne pepper, but in sparing amounts. (If it were just me and the eldest granddaughter, I wouldn’t be so sparing. 8))…
After full thawing, put all 3 lbs of beef in a large mixing bowl, roll up your sleeves and get mixing, (it helps to have an assistant here and later on to slowly add in the spice mix while you are at it).
Load the Jerky Gun by hand, (again really need that assistant! Thanks Honey!) Cover with the “two-slot” cover and tighten down the screw-on holder. (This permits you to squeeze out two strips of jerky at a time).
One tray at a time, squeeze out the jerky strips, having your helper handy with a knife to kind of cut off each pair of strips at about 5″ length is a HUGE help! You should get about 1 tray full for each load of the gun.
Set the dehydrator for maximum temperature (160 on our particular unit). Prepare for your house to start smelling like the beef jerky factory it just became.
The directions say “4 to 6 hours”, and I always go with 6. At about 3 hours, or the half-way point, I unplug – pat each strip dry with paper towels, flip each strip over, then pat again. Do this with each tray, then replace them, reversing their order. Plug back in and let dehydrate for the rest of the period. When done, you will probably want to pat dry the pieces again prior to packaging in zip-lock baggies.
Beef Jerky is fun, and the above combination of ingredients is just what makes our family particularly happy. Play with your own combination of spices, or go ahead and do sliced strips with marinade. *Warning* if you decide to try using a product called “Liquid Smoke” I would most strongly recommend you do so very, very, sparingly or you could waste a whole batch of meat.
The brand/size of our dehydrator is unimportant – but the temperature of around 160 degrees IS important if you want to try this. You can get by with a lower temperature, but if you do – it REALLY needs to be high enough to kill bacteria – and your cooking time will be far, far longer than 4-6 hours if you want to stay well and healthy with this process.
If you can acquire a dehydrator with square trays, it really does enhance this process – we get about 24 5″ strips of jerky on each tray.
OBTW, the Excalibur model of food dehydrators really IS the “Caddy” of them all. If you can afford one, you would probably love that one even more than we love our big Nesco.
Just one final thought – we like stuff that is hot and spicy – but before you try kicking things up a notch, (like my penchant for adding my favorite spices to cornbread, etc.), you might want to just try a batch using the “Original” spice mix first – then proceed from there. Your pallet may not be as “spice tolerant” as ours.